Monday, April 30, 2012

It's International Jazz Appreciation Day...

so, here's something from the International Sweethearts of Rhythm:

Herbie Hancock is the face of International Jazz Appreciation Day, with UNESCO behind him, among others. So, a little Hancock:

There's plenty of other jazz and 3rd Stream music on this blog if you're looking for more...

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Saturday Music Club: Jazz Chorales

Lambert, Hendricks & Ross (and O.C. Smith) and the Count Basie Orchestra:

L, H & R as the Basie Orchestra...(with the Ike Isaacs Trio)

The Modern Jazz Quartet and the Swingle Singers:

The Max Roach Chorus and Orchestra featuring Abbey Lincoln:

Alexander Kiladze Chorale:

Louis Armstrong and Lambert, Hendricks & Ross with the All-Stars and Dave Brubeck:

And probably the biggest hit so far in this mode:
Donald Byrd, his band and chorus:

Friday, April 27, 2012

FFB: THE BEST OF THE WEST edited by Joe R. Lansdale (Doubleday, 1986)

Joe Lansdale's first anthology apparently only saw one edition, unless there was a book club version identical in all but pricetag to this Double-D "trade" edition, and that's a shame, much in the same way as Doubleday's misspelling of Neal Barrett, Jr.'s surname on the dust jacket; as with Neglected Visions, the Barry Malzberg et al. reprint anthology I reviewed here some months back, this is a book that was tossed off casually (at best; "contemptuously" is the word Barry used for D-day's treatment of their "genre" lines at the time), despite being one of the best books I've read so far, if not the best, with reviewing for this "Forgotten Books" roundelay in mind. See the uninspired package slapped on the cover to the left, here.

Lansdale bemoans in his intro the response he got for a request from fellow WWA writers for innovative, new fiction (he got stacks of tear sheets and photocopies of pulp and Zane Grey Western Magazine publications, for one, and a whole lot of conventional material for B), and makes a passing reference to how this volume isn't quite a Dangerous Visions for western fiction as it stands, a reference I imagine would be lost on many typical Double-D readers, who might not know about Harlan Ellison's 1967 anthology devoted to previously unpublished taboo-breaking sf and fantasy; more a heads up to his editors at Doubleday, perhaps, or something he hoped they could point to in hoping to energize the sales force (DV having been a surprise hit for Doubleday all those years before, and comparisons to DV have become something of a mantra for the marketing of anthologies of new fiction since). But what's important about this book, aside from its undeserved obscurity, is both how good and how fresh it remains. (And the tendency for the stories to be rather short and pointed, while fully-fleshed out, reminds me even more of the Hitchcock Presents: reprint anthologies than it does of DV; a John Keefauver story here does nothing to alter that perception.)

Brian Garfield, the recently late Ardath Mayhar, Jeff Banks, Lenore Carroll (with a very funny, literally peachy, sexually-charged culinary encounter), Thomas Sullivan, Neal Barrett, Jr., Lee Schultz (with a short, touching poem), William F. Nolan (with a teleplay for a pilot film for an unsold series), and Loren D. Estleman provide westerns from the traditional historical period, even if Barrett's pushes the late edge of that era, being set after the turn of the century (and bringing together Pat Garrett and some less likely historical figures; Lansdale suggests that only Barrett could write such a story, at least write it well...E. L. Doctorow has certainly tried, hard, and been given a lot more credit as well as money for doing less well; Doctorow definitely wouldn't've included the unobtrusive Bugs Bunny reference). Chad Oliver and John Keefauver offer contemporary stories with strong elements of fantasy in them, Keefauver's unsurprisingly a tall tale in a mode a shade more restrictive and neatly tucked-in than R. A. Laffterty or Howard Waldrop might produce; Oliver's, also unsurprisingly, draws on his anthropology background. LoLo Westrich, Elmer Kelton and Gary Paulsen give us contemporary westerns, Kelton's particularly a reminder that the economic recessions of the current day aren't any newer than this anthology, certainly, more than a quarter-century old now.

There isn't a story here that isn't worth reading, that isn't at least engaging and thoughtful in one manner or another, which puts the book ahead of DV and most other original anthologies in most ways; that it features William Nolan's teleplay, unproduced even though commissioned by ABC at the height of its jiggle/nostalgia success in the latter '70s, as its most conventional narrative, in unconventional format for a literary anthology (as Lansdale notes on both counts), is both interesting for that fact and that ABC, having just had its greatest success ever with Roots, probably shied away from this script's challenging portrayal of its Texas residents' complacency about slavery. (It probably didn't help also that there are no sympathetic Mexican characters in the play...ABC's excuse that their commission was for a "new Zorro" but this was Too much like Zorro.)

I wasn't surprised this was a good book, but I was surprised that it was even better than an old favorite of mine, Razored Saddles, which has in comparison seen several editions and become a bit of a touchstone.

For more of today's books, please see Patti Abbott's blog.

an upgrade of the Contento/Stephensen-Payne index:
The Best of the West ed. Joe R. Lansdale (Doubleday, 12/1986, hc; A Double-D Western "from the Western Writers of America"; first publication for all contents; xiv + 178pp; jacket illustration by Vito DeVito; jacket typography by Dennis McClellan)
ix · Introduction · Joe R. Lansdale · in
1· At Yuma Crossing · Brian Garfield · ss *
14· Take a Left at Bertram · Chad Oliver · ss *
23· The Second Kit Carson · Gary Paulsen · ss *
27· Night of the Cougar · Ardath Mayhar · ss *
36· Jasper Lemon’s Ba Cab Ya Larry · Lee Schultz · pm *
38· Stoned on Yellow · LoLo Westrich · ss *
47· Making Money in Western Banking · Jeff Banks · ss *
52· Cutliffe Starkvogel and the Bears Who Liked TV · John Keefauver · ss *
59· A Bad Cow Market · Elmer Kelton · ss *
72· Peaches · Lenore Carroll · ss *
77· Judas and Jesus · Thomas Sullivan · ss *
85· Sallie C. · Neal Barrett, Jr. · ss *
107· The Nighthawk Rides · William F. Nolan · teleplay *
169· The Bandit · Loren D. Estleman · ss *

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

more links: Tuesday's Overlooked Films and/or Other A/V: the links

As always, thanks to the contributors here and to you readers, who might follow these links to the reviews and citations of the presentations listed below. If I've missed yours, or someone else's, please let me know in comments...and there will be at least a few more added through the course of the day, I'm sure.

Bill Crider: Because They're Young (trailer)

Brian Arnold: Where the Wind Blows

Dan Stumpf: The Silver Whip

David Schmidt, et al.: Tombs of the Blind Dead

Ed Gorman (and Adam Liptak): Perry Mason (the first tv series)

Evan Lewis: Sleepers West

Frederik Pohl: on not being an inspiration for a Mad Men plot thread (the ad man who sold fiction to Galaxy magazine--for starters, Pohl was editing Galaxy in 1966...)

George Kelley: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen; The Black Tower; Unnatural Causes (the P.D. James telefilms)

Iba Dawson: Les yeux sans visage, aka Eyes without a Face

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr.: Third Rock from the Sun

Jack Seabrook: Robert Bloch on Television: "The Sign of Satan" (The Alfred Hitchcock Hour)

Jackie Kashian: Jim Gaffigan: Mr. Universe

James Reasoner: Good for Nothing

Jerry House: The Clutching Hand

John Charles: The End of the Wicked Tiger; He Has Nothing but Kung Fu; Killer from Above; Real Kung Fu of Shaolin

Kate Laity: Alt-Fiction 2012; Evil Roy Slade

Lawrence Person: Returner and an unknown film/ID request

Mark Hand: DGR News Service

Marvin Lachman: Running Against Time

Michael Shonk: TV’s Most Memorable Crime Fighters by Decade

Patti Abbott: The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis

Philip Schweier: Dead End (1937)

Randy Johnson: The Moon is Blue

Rod Lott: The Punisher (2004)

Ron Scheer: Rio Grande (1950)

Scott Cupp: Queen of Outer Space

Sergio Angelini: Rynox

Stacia Jones: Short Animation Blogathon and Classic Links; The Last Waltz and Levon Helm

Stephen Gallagher: Dollhouse (the television series)

Steve Lewis: Machine Gun Mama; Spoilers from the North

Todd Mason: The Dead Don't Die (1975; Robert Bloch adapting his own novella) Please see below.

Yvette Banek: French poster for This Gun for Hire; Cottage to Let

The Dead Don't Die

This rather dark and muddy upload, hard to make out in some of its darker passages, was probably taken from the VHS home video release of some decades back (and which I managed to miss altogether, even as I missed this posting on YT till Sergio Angelini mentioned it in his review of Robert Bloch's The Scarf on Friday); nonetheless, it's not a waste of time, even if a copy of the tape itself would probably be preferable (no legit DVD release that I'm aware of). Bloch's novella, in Fantastic Adventures in 1951, is rather more sophisticated and recursive than the final cut of the film would indicate...and that final cut is, somewhat typically of films for television in its era, a bit more sloppy and ragged than the material deserves. But even given that the protagonist (in the Virgil Finlay illustrations accompanying the novella's first appearance, Robert Bloch himself) is played by George Hamilton, he manages not to mess up the gig with his usual smarm, but instead to look suitably dumbfounded as a sailor coming to see his brother buried, after his imminent execution for the murder of his sister-in-law. The brother begs him to find the actual killer, something the sailor is reluctant to take on, but soon finds himself in world of not altogether healthy intrigue...not least in seeing his dead brother walking around on the streets of Chicago. It turns out that a certain malefactor has been arranging for the deaths of various people, to allow them to become his zombie slaves...including an earnest, not completely captive Linda Cristal and the cheerfully gruesome Reggie Nalder, bringing the frissons this production can offer (even as it, not atypically for Bloch nor director Curtis Harrington, features an utterly noirish setting, much of it in and around dance marathons and other expressions of Depression-era desperation). An otherwise pretty good cast, including Ray Milland, Joan Blondell and Ralph Meeker, does decent work for the production, which would've benefited from some of the sophistication of the original text, as well as sharper editing...but it still is an utterly pleasant experience as it stands. The Cat Creature, from the same team, looks like a better transfer on its YT uplink, and I hope to finally get a chance to watch that one soon. As productions of Bloch's scripts, TDDD isn't quite up to, say, Torture Garden (such an unfortunate, stolen title) but better than the other Amicus Pictures botches of the scripts they commissioned...but it might well remind you, as it does many, pleasantly of the RKO/Lewton Unit films of the 1940s.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Saturday Music Club: neo-Baroque and extensions



Tavener, performed by Anonymous Four and...

Brubeck, Desmond, Morello, Wright...from the album Time Further Out: Miro Reflections

The Modern Jazz Quartet and the Jimmy Giuffre Trio

Bonus Track: Hindemith conducts Hindemith, Chicago Symphony, for WGN-TV, April 1963

Friday, April 20, 2012

FFB: VANITY FAIR, edited by Cleveland Amory and Frederic Bradlee; picture editor: Katherine Tweed (Viking, 1960)

One of the more striking covers of the first Conde Nast Vanity Fair magazine, 1914-1936.

Vanity Fair today is basically a rather pompous gossip magazine, a bit heftier (more in physical terms than the desired literary/cultural sort) than People or Us, rather better-funded and more widely sold than the New York Observer, but fitting rather comfortably into the slot between them; the greatest pity in this is how much The Atlantic today resembles it.

The current VF is very proud of reviving the title, which had been a Conde Nast project when he still ran the company that bears his name, and which title began, after Nast bought magazine rights to a folded VF which had flourished in the 1890s, as essentially a spinoff of his big moneymaker of the time (and still), Vogue. While the new (and now old) Vanity Fair, quickly turned over to Century magazine art editor Frank Crowninshield, went from being another fashion magazine to one which was, at times frivolously or leaning into the sphere of gossip, nonetheless about culture at large in a way that the current VF has never achieved, and featuring an array of contributors that the current one would be hard-pressed to emulate.

The first issue as VF:
And the last issue:

I don't have a poachable table of contents for this anthology from the magazine, and don't have time at the moment to create one (though I think I should), but under Crowninshield, the magazine was able to call on, and cultivate, a remarkable number of important artists, literary and visual, as the editor was both (as Cleveland Amory is careful to note) fascinated by the new in the arts and the rest of human endeavor and very much rooted in the manners and grace of the culture he was raised in; in his first editorial (March 1914 issue), for, example, he states, with patrician charm, "We hereby announce ourselves as determined and bigoted feminists." And the humor there is only in the intentional syntax...from the first issues, he was publishing Anita Loos and Gertrude Stein, and the first major "discovery" of the magazine was a young poet and essayist named Dorothy Rothschild...who would soon be signing her work Dorothy Parker. Her first contribution collected here is "Men: A Hate Song."

The first edition, 1960:

There was no lack of male contributors, either: P. G. Wodehouse, Robert Benchley, G. K. Chesterton, Noel Coward, Louis Untermeyer are all represented in the book by works published by the end of 1920, and along with them and after, Edna St Vincent Millay, Amy Lowell, Carl Sandburg, Colette, Jean Cocteau, T. S. Eliot, Aldous Huxley, Lord Dunsany, Djuna Barnes, Clare Booth (well before her Life was making Time), Frank Sullivan, William Saroyan, Janet Flanner, Mencken and Nathan, and Kay Boyle.

1970 second edition:

And as notable as the literary contributions are the visual, both the paintings and sketches from Picasso, Matisse and Otto Khan and many others (many daringly "modern" for a mass-circulation magazine of its time; Crowninshield had been one of the major supporters of the epochal Armory Show a few years before taking on VF), and the photography...much of the portraiture collected here is among the best I've seen, with nice examples of candids and landscapes scattered...but you've never seen Texas Guinan look better (even if you've ever seen the other photos of Texas Guinan), and there are fairly iconic photos of the likes of Gloria Swanson and Greta Garbo, among other less unsurprising subjects (Ms. Guinan not being the most striking bit of photographic genius). And the book doesn't pass up the opportunity to run Covarrubias's "Impossible Interview" cartoons, in full color: Greta Garbo and Calvin Coolidge refusing to speak; John D. Rockefeller and Josef Stalin not quite getting on (though they had similar management styles).

Only some of the prose here is what these folks should be remembered for; The New Yorker in its early years and The Smart Set and a few others have a stronger literary legacy than that represented here, but this book is a rewarding and impressive slice through the cultural history of the magazine's time. And a sterling reprimand to the underachievement of its heir, today.

And this is the magazine that apparently encouraged W. C. Fields to note, as his potential epitaph, "I'd rather be living in Philadelphia."

For more of today's books, please see Patti Abbott's blog.

Edward Steichen's photo of Gloria Swanson...possibly incorrectly included in a Smithsonian article, "Steichen in Vogue"...Vogue being, as noted above, Vanity Fair's big sister...then as now.

And the list this week, as far as I've seen:
Patti Abbott: Continental Drift by Russell Banks
Sergio Angelini: The Scarf by Robert Bloch
Yvette Banek: The Joshua Croft books by Walter Satterthwait
Joe Barone: School Days by Robert Parker
Brian Busby: In Search of George Pepki, Poet
Bill Crider: The Dead Line by Philip McCutchan
Scott Cupp: Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies by Jerry Beck and Bill Friedwald
Martin Edwards: The Case of the Chinese Gong by Christopher Bush
Elizabeth Grace Foley: Old Rose and Silver by Myrtle Reed
Ed Gorman: The Great American Paperback by Richard Lupoff
Jerry House: the Lefty Feep stories by Robert Bloch
Randy Johnson: Due or Die by Frank Kane
George Kelley: To Ride the Star Winds by A. Bertram Chandler
Margot Kinberg: A Not So Perfect Crime by Teresa Solana
B. V. Lawson: The Killings at Badger's Drift by Caroline Graham
Evan Lewis: Sleepers East by Frederick Nebel
Steve Lewis: Daddy's Gone A-Hunting by Robert Skinner
Todd Mason: Vanity Fair edited by Cleveland Amory and Frederic Bradlee; picture editor: Katherine Tweed
John F. Norris: Murder in the Moor by Thomas Kindon
David Rachels: Nothing in Her Way by Charles Williams
James Reasoner: Trigger Trio by Ernest Haycox
Karyn Reeves: Six Great Advocates by Lord Birkett
Richard Robinson: The Deep Range by Arthur C. Clarke
Gerard Saylor: Run, Boy, Run by Uri Orlev (translated by Hillel Halkin)
Ron Scheer: Out of the West by Elizabeth Higgins
Bill Selnes: Involuntary Witness by Gianrico Carofiglio
Kerrie Smith: As the Crow Flies by Jeffery Archer
Kevin Tipple: The Blade Itself by Marcus Sakey
"TomCat": The Blushing Monkey by Roman McDougald
"Wuthering Willow": In the Fog by Richard Harding Davis
"Zybahn": Trial and Error by Anthony Berkeley

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

more links/content: Tuesday's Overlooked Films And/Or Other A/V

As always, thanks to the contributors to this week's set of reviews and citations at the links below, and to you readers; if I've missed your or someone else's review, please let me know in comments (as frequently, several more reviews are likely to be added over the course of the day)...thanks!

Bill Crider: Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (trailer)

Brian Arnold: The New Monkees

Ed Gorman: The 25th Hour; The Three Stooges condemned by Catholic League President Bill Donohue

Evan Lewis: Rin-Tin-Tin in The Lightning Warrior

George Kelley: Bonnie Raitt Live at Montreaux 1977; Alexander McCall Smith

Iba Dawson: What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice?

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr.: James Hong; Jungle Queen "Chapter Nine: Death Watch"; Mayberry RFD "Palm Springs, Here We Are"

James Reasoner: The Sons of Hercules 1960s US tv package of Italian pepla (sword and sandal historical fantasies)

Jerry House: "Erin Hunter" (Victoria Holmes) talk and signing; The Five British Ladies of Mystery

John Charles: Fiend without a Face

Juri Nummelin: Blazing Magnum

Kate Laity: Dogcast 12

Libby Cudmore: Canned Laser

Marty McKee: Nichols; Android

Michael Shonk: City of Angels (1976 television)

Patti Abbott: Where the Boys Are (1960)

Prashant Trikannad: The Gods Must Be Crazy

Randy Johnson: Wings of the Morning

Rod Lott: The Clones of Bruce Lee

Ron Scheer: The Rare Breed

Sergio Angelini: The Case of the Curious Bride (1935 Perry Mason)

Scott Cupp: Attack the Block

Stacia Jones: The Week of Hong; Spectrum Culture

Steve Lewis: Held for Ransom; The Last Crooked Mile

Todd Mason: X (2011); please see below.

Yvette Banek: Plan B (2009)

X (2011, Australia)

IMDb titles list:
X Australia (original title)(and the one Sundance Channel uses)
Exit - A Night from Hell Germany (DVD title)
Synodos polyteleias Greece (DVD title)
X: Night of Vengeance International (imdb display title) (English title)

It's not a good idea, at this time, to title your film's just too likely to get lost in the shuffle of X-Men films, of Malcolm X and even American History X or the xXx attempt at an explosion-movie franchise, to say nothing of X: The Man with X-Ray Eyes, only one of eleven "exact title matches" from around the world in IMDb. Even when your primary characters are prostitutes, one trying to retire from her high-end position and emigrate to Paris (the French capital, not the [fictional] Oz nor [real] Yank Parises), the other a teen fleeing her horrible domestic situation Up North and trying to become a street pro in what is apparently Sydney (though I don't think which Australian city it's set in is ever mentioned explicitly--no doubt it's obvious to Australians).

The improbably stage-named Viva Bianca (her family name is Skubiszewski, perhaps a tough sell on marquees) plays the veteran, Holly Rowe, about to turn 30 and having saved enough money to fulfill her dream, shared with her late mother who'd vacationed there with her once, of taking up permanent residence in France. Hanna Mangan Lawrence plays Shay, a 17-year-old whose mother has just died, giving Shay no reason to stick around in her small hometown, so attempting to make her way as a big-city prostitute somewhat improbably seems like a better alternative...she gets off the bus and immediately cuts her shirt as short as it can go. Holly has a few loose ends to tie up, such as a last dinner with her shady steady date, and a last good-paying outcall job...the latter requiring a brunette for the customer's request for troilism with Holly in the blond role. When her call to a dark-haired colleague actually helps cause serious repercussion (the first sign that this film isn't interested in anyone's happy ending), Holly is stuck for a partner, then sees Shay stalking away from being mugged by another street prostitute and her pimps/accomplices. The two link up. Things do not go well, even as the two women start to bond in the face of almost nonstop threat and betrayal, with the brief respite of meeting a friendly young cabbie who's also an aspiring stage magician, who takes an interest in Shay beyond her looks and vulnerability; she's not too sure she can trust him or herself, however.

The film works through rather familiar noirish twists and turns deftly, and even moreso manages to make the point, if it need be made again and why not, that prostitution can put the sex workers at an almost unique sort of risk, even if for a few, like Holly, it can also pay well. There are well-set passages in which Shay demonstrates her hard-won knowledge of how to take care of heroin junkies, or Holly does her best to negotiate their way out of the labyrinth they've found themselves in, increasingly protective of the teen she unwittingly dragged into this. Bianca and now Lawrence are both cast members of the current Spartacus series, wherein they both presumably show a lot more skin more regularly than they do here (I knew that I'd seen Bianca before, but couldn't place her), but I'd certainly watch Spartacus if it was up to the level of this film in terms of craft and storytelling. And, hey, there's a cuddly rabbit in the film, to help cut the qualified nihilism of writer/actor Belinda McClory and writer/director Jon Hewitt. An IFC Films release in the States, almost ironically it's playing on the Sundance Channel, instead. While, again, it's not the most original noir film of the decade, it's also not so common that a neo-noir be focused on its female characters, nor have as much solid grounding in some of its details. Joe Bob probably would say go try it.

This trailer "spoils" a bit more than I do above. Best to pop it out. (What Holly is shouting, if it isn't clear, is "Run!")

The official site (or at least the large poster image there) might be more Not Safe for Work than the images above. Next scheduled on the Sundance Channel (US) on 5 May.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Saturday Music Club: With Strings

Bobby Ingano and friends:

The Seldom Scene:

Buffy Sainte Marie (and Carroll Spinney?):

Turtle Island String Quartet:

Max Roach Double Quartet (Max Roach Quartet and Maxine Roach's Uptown String Quartet):

Laurindo Almeida and the Modern Jazz Quartet:

Cuarteto Zupay (lyrics: Jorge Luis Borges):

Uncle Earl:

Sam Bush Band with Emmylou Harris:

Fairport Convention:
(Oddly, lots of photos of Sandy Denny displayed here, and she's not yet in the band; Judy Dyble was the female lead singer and multi-instrumentalist for the first recording version of the band.)

Maxine Sullivan:

Friday, April 13, 2012

FFB: John MacDonald short stories

A number of the stories I've read for today's review, on this special Friday Books devoted to John D. MacDonald, were among those posted, perhaps not altogether legitimately, at the web-archive Jerry House pointed these out for us at his post of some weeks back, and it's a valuable look at some fiction otherwise not accessible, except through the hardcopies of the back issues of the magazines, or in some cases anthologies published over the years, which Jerry is careful to cite.

The first, however, is not posted, but has been anthologized, by Damon Knight in Westerns of the '40s: Classics from the Great Pulps, a book which has since been reprinted with variant titles, after the story's first and only other appearance in 10 Story Western for April, 1948. "The Corpse Rides at Dawn" does not turn on JDM superfan Steve Scott at his blog The Trap of Solid Gold, but Scott misses, I'd say, some of the virtues and some of the interest inherent in this early story; a basic you-killed-my-brother retribution story is invested with, as Scott notes, an improbably outlandish means for the revenger to get back at the increasingly megalomaniacal villain, but while the villain is too-easily unraveled, the portrayal of the antagonist is a nice larval version of the villains who would recur in MacDonald's later, more substantial work. And the story moves nicely, with deftly-sketched if mostly familiar characters...10 Story Western wasn't a leader in its field, but it's not too surprising that the magazine chose to give this "novella" a cover-billing, with JDM not yet a name to conjure with (albeit this was the kind of magazine that liked to get All the names on the cover). Scott also mentions two other straightforward western stories MacDonald published, and a few echoes of this story in the McGee novels (which had also occurred to me as I read the story earlier this week).

But those three aren't the only western short fiction one can find from him. The two Weird Tales stories at are both also amusing exercises in MacDonald finding his feet as a fiction writer, and the earlier, "The Great Stone Death" from the January 1949 issue, is also a contemporary western, with a feeling akin to Manly Wade Wellman's stories of the eastern mountains, which takes a mutant twist also worthy of Wellman, as its protagonists are so unfortunate as to encounter the title Thing. While "But Not to Dream" (May 1949) is MacDonald attempting to take the henpecked-husband/worm-turning story and remake it into noir, given the absolutely over-the-top nature of the protagonist's domestic nightmare...and then to go from there, and have the turning worm become more a caterpillar instead (perhaps JDM had been reading Robert Bloch; one could imagine Thomas Harris being sparked by reading this). "Death," for that matter, appeared in the same issue as Bloch's "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," Robert Heinlein's "Our Fair City," and stories by Frank Gruber, Eric Frank Russell, Alison Harding, Mary Elizabeth Counselman, and "Stephen Grendon" burst from his disguise as August Derleth; the May issue brings back Harding and Derleth and adds Anthony Boucher.

"Shenadun" (Startling Stories, September 1948) is a science fiction story that begins as a sports story, specifically a mountain-climbing adventure that rushes a little too much through its (base-camp!) groundwork...a character who is being touted as important support is killed off before we have a sense of him...and the sense that JDM is being paid by the word in this market shows a little more than in any of the other short stories I've read by him. The protagonist, facing certain death in his attempt to summit a Himalayan mountain not far from Everest, discovers a lost, suspended-animation set of humanoid alien giants, castaways awaiting the closest-approach between their solar system and ours who have probably helped inspire folklore in their limited past interaction with humanity. Amusing, if minor, and again notable for its hybrid nature, as a story which takes its mountaineering at least as seriously as the "You have no scientific training, so I can only give you a sense of our situation" and other, similar gambits in its straightforwardly sfnal passages. This shares its issue with Fredric Brown's What Mad Universe, an early Jack Vance story, a P. Schuyler Miller reprint, and letters from Chad Oliver, Wilson "Bob" Tucker, Marion Zimmer (not yet married to become Bradley), famous fanwriter Rick Sneary, Arthur Leo Zagat and others. The improvements to the magazine by editor Sam Merwin, who would notably later edit Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine in his long career, were already well in evidence.

"The Unsuitable Girl" is a vignette from 1956, from a series that Saturday Evening Post competitor Collier's would publish of one-page short short stories. (Or does such a reference to SEP actually help anyone who doesn't know that Collier's was also a hugely popular magazine of general-interest reading?). In its short focus, it still demonstrates that MacDonald had been honing his instruments over the previous half-decade, in telling a slightly less stereotypical version of the emotionally-clueless and overbearing mother/wife and the slightly less desperate, if still not actually effectual, father/husband, and their varying degrees of concern about the dating life of their 17-year-old son, who at story's beginning is seeing a 20yo woman who drives a sports car and otherwise seems to be audaciously devil-may-care. The two "boys" (advisedly), who are Sr. and Jr. in their names (actually, Thomas and Tommy), bond over their slightly less blinkered understanding of the family dynamic, as Tommy spins some Brubeck for dad. (This story shares its issue with fiction by Margery Sharp, apparently a Collier's fixture in these years, and a Donald Hamilton serial, Mad River; other Collier's issues archived here feature JDM stories in the same issue with a Jim Thompson vignette, Robb White and Lawrence Blochman short stories, and the serialization of Old Yeller; among the mostly bland panel cartoons that break up the pages of JDM's text is one by the Berenstains, some years before they first published etiquette manuals enacted by Bears.)

I'd like to have read or reread some more of these "by deadline," and might well add some later on (Jerry in his post mistakenly thought "Elimination Race" [Collier's, 1952] had never been was the first JDM I read, I'm pretty sure, in its appearance in High Gear, edited by Evan Jones).

Table of Contents
Long Novelette
Four From Jehlam by Allison V. Harding, pp. 4-25 - PDF
Our Fair City by Robert Heinlein, pp. 82-98 - PDF
Short Stories
Food for Demons by E. Everett Evans, pp. 26-33 - PDF
The Thirteenth Floor by Frank Gruber, pp. 34-42 - PDF
Open Season On the Bottoms by Snowden T. Herrick, pp. 43-45 - PDF
The Great Stone Death by John D. MacDonald, pp. 46-50 - PDF
Lover In Scarlet by Harold Lawlor, pp. 52-54 - PDF
The Sorcerer's Apprentice by Robert Bloch, pp. 55-61 - PDF
The Big Shot by Eric Frank Russell, pp. 62-66 - PDF
Balu by Stephen Grendon, pp. 68-72 - PDF
The Bonan of Baladewa by Mary Elizabeth Counselman, pp. 73-81 - PDF
The Heads On Easter Island (Verse) by Leah Bodine Drake, p. 67 - PDF
A Curse (Verse) by Page Cooper, p. 51 - PDF
Weirdisms by Lee Brown Coye, p. 3 - PDF
Cover by L.B.C., - PDF

For more links to more JDM (and even works by other writers), please see Patti Abbott's blog.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Best Fiction of the Year Annuals: 1: the eclectic US series

I thought I'd do a post about the variety of best of the year annuals, particularly those devoted to fiction...but the plethora of available and formerly available series has made a comprehensive list pretty extensive...moreso than I was able to put together in just one post...and even among the eclectic fiction (and related) annuals, this set is hardly complete.

One little discovery for me was that the series that became Best American Short Stories actually began several years before the O. Henry annuals...for some reason, I'd assumed the latter series was older. Here below some of the oldest cover images I've found and the contents lists for the oldest volumes I've found so far (and for this year's PEN/O. Henry):

CONTENTS of the third Best American Short Stories, published as The Best Short Stories of 1917 edited by Edward J. O'Brien (1918) courtesy Project Gutenberg, where you can read this volume (but not yet the earlier volume...apparently the first BASS was somehow serialized in a magazine...Google Books will show you the 1916 volume.

Introduction. By the Editor xvii
The Excursion. By Edwina Stanton Babcock 1
(From The Pictorial Review)
Onnie. By Thomas Beer 20
(From The Century Magazine)
A Cup of Tea. By Maxwell Struthers Burt 45
(From Scribner's Magazine)
Lonely Places. By Francis Buzzell 70
(From The Pictorial Review)
Boys Will Be Boys. By Irvin S. Cobb 86
(From The Saturday Evening Post)
Laughter. By Charles Caldwell Dobie 128
(From Harper's Magazine)
The Emperor of Elam. By H. G. Dwight 147
(From The Century Magazine)
The Gay Old Dog. By Edna Ferber 208
(From The Metropolitan Magazine)
The Knight's Move. By Katharine Fullerton Gerould 234
(From The Atlantic Monthly)
A Jury of Her Peers. By Susan Glaspell 256
(From Every Week)
The Bunker Mouse. By Frederick Stuart Greene 283
(From The Century Magazine)
Rainbow Pete. By Richard Matthews Hallet 307
(From The Pictorial Review)
Get Ready the Wreaths. By Fannie Hurst 326
(From The Cosmopolitan Magazine)
The Strange-looking Man. By Fanny Kemble Johnson 361
(From The Pagan)
The Caller in the Night. By Burton Kline 365
(From The Stratford Journal)
The Interval. By Vincent O'Sullivan 383
(From The Boston Evening Transcript)
A Certain Rich Man—." By Lawrence Perry 391
(From Scribner's Magazine)
The Path of Glory. By Mary Brecht Pulver 412
(From The Saturday Evening Post)
Ching, Ching, Chinaman. By Wilbur Daniel Steele 441
(From The Pictorial Review)
None So Blind. By Mary Synon 468
(From Harper's Magazine)
The Yearbook of the American Short Story for 1917 483
Addresses of American Magazines Publishing Short Stories 485
The Biographical Roll of Honor of American Short Stories for 1917 487
The Roll of Honor of Foreign Short Stories in American Magazines for 1917 506
The Best Books of Short Stories of 1917: A Critical Summary 509
Volumes of Short Stories Published During 1917: An Index 521
The Best Sixty-three American Short Stories of 1917: A Critical Summary 536
Magazine Averages for 1917 541
Index of Short Stories for 1917 544

From the Gutenberg Project digitization, the (alphabetical by author) shortlist for the first O. Henry Awards volume (1920, collecting stories first published in 1919):

1. The Kitchen Gods, by Guglielma Alsop (_Century_, September).
2. Facing It, by Edwina Stanton Babcock (_Pictorial Review_, June).
3. The Fairest Sex, by Mary Hastings Bradley (_Metropolitan_, March).
4. Bargain Price, by Donn Byrne (_Cosmopolitan_, March).
5. Porcelain Cups, by James Branch Cabell (_Century_, November).
6. Gum Shoes, 4-B, by Forrest Crissey (_Harper's_, December).
7. The Trial in Tom Belcher's Store, by Samuel A. Derieux (_American_,
8. April Twenty-fifth As Usual, by Edna Ferber (_Ladies Home Journal_,
9. The Mottled Slayer, by George Gilbert (_Sunset_, August).
10. Dog Eat Dog, by Ben Hecht (_The Little Review_, April).
11. Blue Ice, by Joseph Hergesheimer (_Saturday Evening Post_, December
12. Innocence, by Rupert Hughes (_Cosmopolitan_, September).
13. Humoresque, by Fannie Hurst (_Cosmopolitan_, March).
14. The Yellow Streak, by Ellen La Motte (_Century_, March).
15. The Elephant Remembers, by Edison Marshall (_Everybody's_, October).
16. England to America, by Margaret Prescott Montague (_Atlantic_,
17. Five Thousand Dollars Reward, by Melville D. Post (_Saturday Evening
Post_, February 15).
18. The Lubbeny Kiss, by Louise Rice (_Ainslee's_, October).
19. The High Cost of Conscience, by Beatrice Ravenel (_Harper's_,
20. The Red Mark, by John Russell (_Collier's_, April 15).
21. The Trap, by Myra Sawhill (_American_, May).
22. Evening Primroses, by Anne D. Sedgwick (_Atlantic_, July).
23. Autumn Crocuses, by Anne D. Sedgwick (_Atlantic_, August).
24. The Blood of the Dragon, by Thomas Grant Springer (_Live Stories_,
25. Contact, by Wilbur Daniel Steele (_Harper's_, March).
26. For They Know not What They Do, by Wilbur Daniel Steele (_Pictorial
Review_, July).
27. La Guiablesse, by Wilbur Daniel Steele (_Harpers_, September).
28. On Strike, by Albert Payson Terhune (_The Popular Magazine_,
29. The Other Room, by Mary Heaton Vorse (_McCall's_, April).
30. They Grind Exceeding Small, by Ben Ames Williams (_Saturday Evening
Post_, September 13).
31. On the Field of Honour, by Ben Ames Williams (_American_, March).
32. Turkey Red, by Frances Gilchrist Wood (_Pictorial Review_,

2012 Table of Contents:
Introduction by Laura Furman, Series Editor
"Uncle Rock" by Dagoberto Gilb, The New Yorker
"The Vandercook" by Alice Mattison, Ecotone
"Leak" by Sam Ruddick, The Threepenny Review
"Nothing Living Lives Alone" by Wendell Berry, The Threepenny Review
"The First Wife" by Christine Sneed, New England Review
"A Birth in the Woods" by Kevin Wilson, Ecotone
"Naima" by Hisham Matar, The New Yorker
"Mickey Mouse" by Karl Taro Greenfeld, Santa Monica Review
"Things Said or Done' by Ann Packer, Zoetrope
"East of the West" by Miroslav Penkov, Orion
"A Brush" by John Berger, Harper’s
"Kindness" by Yiyun Li, A Public Space
"Phantoms" by Steven Millhauser, McSweeney’s Quarterly
"Boys Town" by Jim Shepard, The New Yorker
"The Hare’s Mask" by Mark Slouka, Harper’s
"Eyewall" by Lauren Groff, Subtropics
"Rothko Eggs" by Keith Ridgway, Zoetrope
"The Deep" by Anthony Doerr, Zoetrope
"The Woman Who Lived in the House" by Salvatore Scibona, A Public Space
"Corrie" by Alice Munro, The New Yorker
Reading The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2012
The Jurors on Their Favorites: Mary Gaitskill, Daniyal Mueenuddin, Ron Rash
Writing The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2012
The Writers on Their Work
Recommended Stories 2012
Publications Submitted

And, of course, these two venerable series are only the oldest among many...including The Pushcart Prize volumes, beginning in 1976, devoted to fiction, poetry and nonfiction from the small press (loosely defined):

...and the lamentably short-lived (three annual volumes) Beacon Best annual, with a similar eclecticism aimed at redressing the diversity imbalance in the other annuals...

And the professional organization-sponsored annual devoted to presenting the best magazine writing of various sorts, which distantly followed Gerald Walker's three volumes for Crown Publishers (1966-1968), Best Magazine Articles:

And the regional anthologies of fiction, beginning in 1986 with New Stories from the South (discontinued with the 2010 volume):

And the much younger Western...

and Midwestern series:

And a series devoted to students in the major college writing programs, which began with the 2000 volume and ended with that from 2010:

Along with a series devoted to utter eclecticism, aimed at young readers and meant to benefit a literacy (and more) program in the SF Bay area, beginning 2002:
...which, of course, is part of the panoply of Best-American books for Houghton Mifflin that their publication of Best American Short Stories has spawned, including volumes devoted to poetry, comics and a wide variety of nonfiction writing...but given how the number of images in this post is already making it "unstable" for predictable viewing in multiple browsers, the more content-specialized best-ofs for fiction (crime fiction, sf, fantasy, horror, erotica) will have to await their own posts...

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

more links/content: Tuesday's Overlooked Films And/Or Other A/V:

Thanks as always to all the contributors here, and there might well be a few more by the end of the day...the films and other presentations cited below are reviewed, or at least described, at the links. If I've overlooked yours or someone else's, please let me know.

Bill Crider: The Pick-Up Artist (trailer); Prologue Books Podcast: Ed Gorman

Brian Arnold: The Wizard of Oz In Concert: Dreams Come True (1995)

Dan Stumpf: Whistling in the Dark (1933)

Ed Gorman: Steve Eifert: Crime Wave (1954)

Evan Lewis: Captain Blood (1935)

Eric Anderson: Diary of the Dead

Francis M. Nevins: Fred Steiner on the theme to Perry Mason

Iba Dawson: The Grass is Greener (1960 film)

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr.: Jungle Queen (1945); "Palm Springs, Here We Come" (Mayberry RFD, 1969); Buck Benny Rides Again

Jack Seabrook: Robert Bloch on Television: "A Home Away From Home" (The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, 1963)

James Reasoner: Band of Brothers

Jerry House: Pittsburgh Zoo, Aquarium, Carnegie Science Center and Sports Science Center; Overlooked (or Vanished) Characters

John Charles: Silent Sentence; Jack the Ripper Goes West

Michael Shonk: I Deal in Danger (re-edited from episodes of Blue Light, 1966); Hong Kong (1960-61)

Mike Doran: "Lady in Waiting" (87th Precinct, 1961); "Deadlock" (Bob Hope's Chrysler Theater, 1967)

Patti Abbott: My Three Sons

Pearce Duncan: La piel que habito (aka The Skin I Live In)

Prashant Trikannad: First Blood

Randy Johnson: Day of the Outlaw

Rod Lott: Sinderella and the Golden Bra

Ron Scheer: The Lonely Man (1957); The Sea of Grass

Scott Cupp: Trollhunter

Sergio Angelini: The End of the Game (1975)

Stacia Jones: The films of James Hong

Steve Eifert: Desert Fury

Steve Lewis: The Lawbreakers (1961)

Todd Mason: Insight (197? episode); Inside/Out (PBS, 1972-73); Time for Beany (KTLA 1948-50/Paramount Television Network 1950-55) The Grandmother (1970); There Are Monsters (2008)...please see below.

Walter Albert: North of 36

Yvette Banek: Marple: Nemesis (aka Nemesis)

As it's the day after Western Easter, and on the run up to Orthodox Easter (the folks who consider yesterday to have been Palm Sunday), I am reminded of one of the most striking dramatic portrayals of the terrible as well as great burden for the individual that accepting supernatural faith can be, along with its comforts (and, of course, for the believers, the acceptance of fact). Unsurprisingly, it was an episode of the often playful and allusive Paulist Production Insight, which presented an anthology series for nearly a quarter century that ranged from the rather blatantly hortatory to the relatively subtle, and managed to engage some surprising as well as unsurprising talent on camera and off...episodes were written and/or directed by the likes of Jay Sandrich, Michael Crichton and William Peter Blatty, and featured actors including Cicely Tyson, Bob Newhart, Carol Burnett, Walter Matthau, Patty Duke and Gene Hackman. I'm not sure of the title of the early '70s episode that stuck with me, involving a man who finds himself utterly alone on the shorefront of a town or's late at night, and yet the streets seem utterly deserted...except for one figure who keeps following him, getting ever closer, but never close enough for the protagonist to get a good look at him. The sinister potential of all this was well-played up, until the reveal at the end, when the protagonist walks over to the water's edge where his pursuer has fallen, and sees a wooden statue of Jesus of Nazareth bobbing. If you know which episode this is, I'll appreciate the reminder. Insight was a syndicated series throughout its run.

Patti Abbott recently asked her readers what their favorite children's film was, particularly if they had different ones now than they did when children (a very parental/grandparental question by any standard, as she notes), and it occurred to me that it was easier for me to cite my favorite television series in childhood, inasmuch as I had so much more access (and living as I did as a kid in suburbs of large-enough cities, or towns with several large cities nearby, I usually was able to see a fair amount of what was on at any given time, no Just Three Channels (or fewer) for me even before cable became common. (So, reader...what were your favorite children's series in your childhood, if any...and what might they be now? Please feel free to leave responses in comments...)

And one of my favorite series aimed at kids was the PBS problem-drama anthology, in 15-minute episode format, Inside/Out. It's certainly overlooked these days, but it was a very intelligently put-together one-season series that ran, as its Wikipedia page notes, forever on at least some PBS stations and on PBS-like TV Ontario (the YT-video linked to below was taped from KLCS, the LA County schools' PBS station). This wasn't the best episode of the series, "Home *Sweet* Home" (with asterisks here standing in for the strikethrough), but it does offer a rather typically deft presentation of a very dysfunctional family, and in contrast a simply reasonable if somewhat uptight one, and the kind of realistic crises the series regularly presented its characters with...the series won the Emmy for 1974 for "Outstanding Instructional Children's Programming," according to IMDb, which manages to misidentify it as a syndicated series. (Now vanished from YT, and replaced here by another episode I remember seeing back when: "Can Do/Can't Do"...):

Among the intelligent children's series as far away from Inside/Out as one could get, tonally and in its nature, puppet show Time for Beany (which would eventually become the animated Beany and Cecil) does share one other characteristic with I/O: this series is often not quite correctly identified as having been a syndicated series, when it was initially one of the relatively few national offerings of the not quite stillborn Paramount Television Network, which ran alongside and in contentious dispute at times with what should've been its partner/cousin, the DuMont Network, of which Paramount was a part-owner. But Paramount owned a few stations of its own, most importantly KTLA in Los Angeles, which were the core of their small network from 1950-1955, the PTN operations coinciding almost exactly with the operations of DuMont. And the early pre-Beany and Cecil episodes had such talent as Daws Butler (the Mel Blanc of Hanna-Barbera cartoons, the voice of Huckleberry Hound among others) and Stan Freberg working the puppets and providing the voices...

And, to return to the ever-crowd-pleasing angle of abused kids and their means of coping, here's a suitably surreal and at times grotesque yet typically All-American vision (curdled a bit around the edges, but more resilient at its core than it seems) from the young David Lynch, writer and director of this short film, The Grandmother (1970).

Or, if you prefer your web-video horror in shorter and more conventional-narrative doses (and one where the fun is along with the kids...and adults who might too much resemble kids), here's one of the more widely-seen horror shorts on the web...which doesn't mean that it's caught up with you as yet (and, certainly, you don't want what it portrays to ever catch up with you and yours)...There Are Monsters (2008), written and directed by Jay Dahl (and you might want to hit that little button on the bottom right, to manipulate the image so you can get a full-screen effect here):

Relevant podcasts today:
How Did This Get Made?: Pluto Nash
The Dork Forest: Jim Gaffigan